Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Knicks can deliver the knockout blow. In Game 5 of their first-round playoff series, the Knicks can end one drought — and begin focusing on the next.

Despite the team’s lone All-Star (Julius Randle) — yes, Jalen Brunson should have received the nod at the time — and the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up (Immanuel Quickley) offering little help, the Knicks’ depth, toughness and clutch play has put them one win from pulling a first-round upset and reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade and the second time this century.

What was once a given — from 1989 to 2000, the Knicks reached the second round 11 times — is now cause for celebration.

And what once looked like the ceiling has suddenly been replaced by the sky.

With the eighth-seeded Miami Heat also one win away from ousting the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, it is no longer farfetched to envision the Knicks reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 23 years (only two teams have gone longer without making the conference finals).

There, they likely would meet the rival Celtics, who lost three of four games against the Knicks this season.

An Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Philly and an injury-compromised Joel Embiid, would bring even more optimism.

The Knicks have made life difficult for Donovan Mitchell while putting themselves in position to win their first playoff series in a decade.
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The bracket still could break better than anyone could have anticipated with a flawed contender set to emerge from the weaker West.

The Knicks’ 50-year title drought represents the longest of any franchise that has won a title in the city where they were founded.

The Suns — victims of three NBA Finals losses, seven conference finals losses and five Game 7 losses — are the only team to experience as much agony in the past five decades without a parade, but Kevin Durant could help change that as he looks to lead the betting favorite in the Western Conference to its first NBA title.

Here’s how some of sports’ most painful droughts compare:

NHL: The Toronto Maple Leafs — representatives of the largest city in the country where hockey was born — haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 56 years, the longest drought in NHL history. They haven’t reached the Cup Finals since then, either, having lost their past five appearances in the conference finals. Toronto has the talent to do it this year, and is on the verge of ending the league’s longest postseason series winless stretch, needing one win to eliminate Tampa Bay and reach the second round for the first time since 2004 (Game 5 is Thursday night, 7 p.m., TBS). The Leafs have lost in the opening round in each of the past six seasons.

The Islanders — in the midst of the third-longest drought without a Cup Finals appearance (1984) after conference finals setbacks in 2020 and 2021 — used 34 saves by Ilya Sorokin to stave off elimination Tuesday night in a 3-2 road win over the Hurricanes.

“I believe in my game, my system and our team. Just step by step,” Sorokin said.

The next step is a Game 6 on Friday night back on Long Island.

NFL: With Aaron Rodgers aboard, the Jets are now expected to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought (2010). If the 39-year-old plays in the neighborhood of his MVP form — according to ESPN, no Jets player has earned a single AP MVP vote since 1972 — and can get past Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Josh Allen, the Jets could tackle the longest title drought of any team that has won a Super Bowl (1969).

Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers takes the field prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on January 08, 2023 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Jets fans hope the arrival of Aaron Rodgers will bring about the quick end to the NFL’s longest current playoff drought.
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Despite what is often said, other NFL teams have had it worse than the Jets. The Bills and Vikings have been painfully close to glory on multiple occasions. The Lions have spent more years in the wilderness. The Browns have suffered in every way imaginable — and lost their team for three years.

MLB: The Guardians stand alone. It has now been more than 74 years since Cleveland won the World Series, the fifth-longest drought in MLB history. In the wild-card era, Cleveland has reached the Fall Classic three times, twice losing in extra innings of Game 7.

The Mets’ 36-year title drought — the ninth-longest in the majors — is quaint in comparison.

The Yankees’ 2009 championship only feels like forever to the most successful franchise in American sports, and still falls shy of the franchise’s 18-year gap between titles in 1978 and 1996.

WNBA: The Liberty, who lost four of the first six WNBA Finals, remain the only original WNBA team without a championship. That could change this year, thanks to the arrival of Breanna Stewart, who has made the Liberty a preseason co-favorite with Las Vegas.

Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot of the New York Liberty pose for a photo in the locker room after the introductory press conference on February 9, 2023 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
With new additions Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot, the Liberty have built a roster that could win their first WNBA title.
NBAE via Getty Images

MLS: The Red Bulls are one of three teams that have played in every MLS season without ever winning the championship, reaching their lone MLS Cup in 2008. The New England Revolution have suffered more since debuting in 1996, though, losing five times in the MLS Cup.

ATP: No American male has won a grand slam since the 2003 U.S. Open (Andy Roddick). Before the current two-decade drought, there had never been a five-year stretch during which an American man failed to win a major.

But with Roger Federer gone, Rafael Nadal nearing retirement and Novak Djokovic turning 36 next month, a window has opened for a crop of promising young Americans — such as Taylor Fritz, 25, Frances Tiafoe, 25, Tommy Paul, 25, and Sebastian Korda, 22 — to end a once-unthinkable stretch of futility.

Today’s back page

The back cover of the New York Post on April 26, 2023
New York Post

Read more:

🏒 Rangers coach calls out team’s stars after playoff dud

🏈 Expect Giants to make NFL Draft trade with too many picks

⚾ Mistake-prone Yankees see bats go quiet in loss to Twins

⚾ Mets’ bats fall silent in ugly loss to Nationals

Win or go home

The Knicks kick off an NBA quadruple header Wednesday night, doubling as the most intriguing night of this young postseason:

Knicks at Cavaliers (7 p.m., MSG): How will Donovan Mitchell respond after an embarrassing 11-point effort in New York? How will Randle respond to being benched in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ Game 4 victory?

Lakers at Grizzlies (7:30 p.m., TNT): Last month, the Lakers looked finished, following reports that LeBron James might miss the rest of the season due to a foot injury. Now they head to Memphis for Game 5, needing one win to eliminate the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. James is coming off a magnificent performance in Game 4 (22 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists), and nemesis Dillon Brooks has made seven of 24 shots since calling the legend “old.”

Lakers LeBron James blocks the shot of Grizzlies Desmond Bane in the second quarter at arena Monday.
LeBron James and the Lakers have bounced back from a 2-10 start to the season to move within a game of the second round.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Heat at Bucks (9:30 p.m., NBA TV): The Heat were one play-in fourth quarter away from seeing their season end. Now they could eliminate the NBA’s best regular-season team. The Bucks understandably struggled with Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined, losing two of the first three games of the series, but the two-time MVP’s return couldn’t prevent a fourth-quarter collapse in Miami, as Jimmy Butler exploded for 56 points to give the Heat a 3-1 series lead. Following the inexplicable choke, can the Bucks win three straight games while playing with the pressure of trying not to become the first 1-seed to lose in the first round in 12 years?

Warriors at Kings (10 p.m., TNT): One of the most entertaining first-round series in recent memory — a thrilling Game 4 attracted a peak of 10.4 million viewers on ABC, the highest rating for a first-round game in 21 years — heads to Sacramento tied 2-2. The Warriors have won back-to-back games, but the defending champs are 11-32 on the road this season. De’Aaron Fox plans to play through a fractured finger on his shooting hand, but how effective can the Kings’ most important player — averaging 31.5 points in the series — be with a protective pad on his finger?

Will he or won’t he?

Steve Serby’s most recent NFL mock draft has the Carolina Panthers taking Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick. On Thursday night, we’ll find out whether he — or Reddit’s “SaleAgreeable2834” — is right.

On Tuesday, the user of the anonymous social media handle sent shockwaves through sportsbooks after claiming to have inside information that Kentucky’s Will Levis will be taken by the Panthers.

The post read:

“Will Levis is currently +4000 to be the first overall pick. Well ladies and gentleman, he’s telling friends and family Carolina will in fact take him on Thursday. You’re welcome.”

Quarterback Will Levis of Kentucky participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
A Reddit post saying Kentucky quarterback Will Levis would be the draft’s top pick created turmoil in betting markets.
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The unsourced tip triggered bettors to take action on Levis, lowering his odds at sportsbooks from 40/1 to 4/1 in about an hour.

“Given the nature of the draft, we drastically cut the price based on this action and eventually came to a price where the bets stopped,” a DraftKings spokesperson told ESPN. “We are still seeing some small bets trickle through at the current price, but the speculation is all the action was off the back of a Reddit post.”

Young still remains the strong favorite (-1000) to go first overall, but it was only weeks ago that C.J. Stroud was widely projected to be the first player off the board. Serby projects Levis going to the Titans with the 11th pick, behind three other quarterbacks (Young, Stroud, Anthony Richardson).

Chances are Levis won’t go first overall — or SaleAgreeable2834 will be coming for Adam Schefter.